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Ex-Googler tells all to Microsoft

Former Googler hired back by Microsoft reveals the dark side to working at Google

Elinor Mills Former Staff Writer
Elinor Mills covers Internet security and privacy. She joined CNET News in 2005 after working as a foreign correspondent for Reuters in Portugal and writing for The Industry Standard, the IDG News Service and the Associated Press.
Elinor Mills
3 min read

A former Googler who returned to Microsoft after a start-up he left the software giant to launch was acquired by Google, has some not-so-positive insights to share about what it's really like to work at the Googleplex.

Behind the lava lamps, organic dinners and free shuttle buses lurks a company where employees end up working long hours, don't enjoy private offices and get paid less than Microsofties.

That's according to an internal Microsoft e-mail that has made its way to the Web. The blog posting is believed to have been written by a Microsoft recruiter who interviewed the ex-Googler.

Some highlights:

-- "People are generally in the building between 10 a.m. and about 6 p.m. every day, but nearly everyone is on e-mail 24/7 and most people spend most of their evenings working from home."

-- "Most people don't actually have a 20 percent project. Most managers won't remind you to start one."

-- "There are glass-walled offices, there are open-space areas, there are cubicles, there are people who's (sic) desks are literally in hallways because there's no room anywhere else."

-- "A college kid can literally join Google and, like they did as freshman at university, let Google take care of everything. Of course, if Google handles everything for you, it's hard to think about leaving because of all the 'stuff' you'll need to transition and then manage for yourself."

-- "Google doesn't place any value on previous industry experience. (It puts tremendous value on degrees, especially Stanford ones.)"

-- "Google actually pays less salary than Microsoft."

-- "Google's health insurance is actually not nearly as good as Microsoft's."

Among the insider's suggestions for Microsoft to compete more effectively with Google in recruiting and retention is offering employees free food. Serving breakfast by 8:30 a.m. will ensure that many workers are at the office early, the ex-Googler said.

Who is this mystery person who dares to reveal the untold secrets about the company ranked best place to work by Fortune?

In her ZDNet blog, Microsoft watcher Mary Jo Foley says she knows who it is and that she contacted him and his opinions reflect those in the e-mail. He is one of the founders of Phatbits, a company acquired by Google, she says. He left Microsoft before starting Phatbits and then returned after leaving Google. Foley does not identify him but writes that he said he did not create the blog or post the e-mail to it.

UPDATE 9:00 AM PT June 28: A new "Phatbits.com" blog has one entry, entitled "My Words," in which someone claims credit for the opinions expressed about Google but not for the creation of the posting or the blog, and expresses dismay that Foley revealed enough information for his identity to be discovered. "Today my words got splashed all around the Internet. It's interesting to see them living a life of their own outside the context they were created in," the posting says. It includes a letter to Foley that says, in part, "The questions did come from my recruiter and what is published is, as far as I know, my exact response. I haven't compared the online text with the original response so it's possible some details have been changed but, as far as I know, those are my words. I answered the questions in the context of a business communication so my response might include things Microsoft considers confidential. I made a big effort to make sure it didn't contain any facts that Google considers confidential per my agreements with them." It is signed "Warm Regards, Geoffrey."